Friday, 26 October 2018

A failed experiment

It seemed like a good idea at the time to take the little Fuji and use it to make some black and white pics at the auction mart. For one thing the lighting is inconsistent in colour, for another the camera is unobtrusive. Where could there be a fly in the ointment? Lots of places as it turned out.

I thought I could live with the slow autofocus. Even bypass it by using manual focus. That didn't improve the slight lag between pressing the shutter release and the exposure being made. Using autofocus I had forgotten about the other delay. The slow autofocus messed up a few frames by putting the focus somewhere unexpected when the shutter actually fired. Maybe a change of setting would cure that. But there'd still be a lag. This makes grabbing shots hit and miss. In this case, miss.

Hmm. Why is that in colour? It's in colour because when I got the files on the computer I converted one to colour and preferred it. Odd colours and all. I guess that black and white, for me, is to be saved for 'art' photography. The documentary stuff has to be in colour.

I did try some 'arty' stuff. Slow shutter speeds to get movement blur. Even then the lag factor messed things up for me.

All in all it was a bit frustrating. There's no doubting that for static subjects, or even slower moving ones, it can be a great camera. But for this sort of thing I find it awkward. At least for the sort of pictures I like to try for, and the way I like to take them. So my few better photos from today were mostly of subjects which didn't move much. With the odd exception.

I even succumbed to taking pictures of Herdwicks. They are very photogenic... And some pictures work better in colour no matter what.

There was another thing. Batteries. They don't last five minutes. What's more, the electronic viewfinder, while perfectly useable in daylight looks like a TV that's on the blink under some artificial lights. It's most off putting to see dark bands scrolling over the viewfinder. Those who are saying that DSLRs have had their day are jumping the gun in my estimation. Maybe the new breed of mirrorless cameras are a match, but they're rather expensive to try out only to find they aren't all the fanboys crack them up to be.

The non-technical lesson learned is that I'll have to up my game on the picture making front. I didn't come away with much more than snaps if I'm honest. I might have been concentrating on the gear instead of the pictures. But that's what can happen when the gear isn't intuitive to use, or what you are well accustomed to using more like. It was a valuable experiment to give the Fuji a concerted try out. But it#s back to the comfy old slippers of the DSLRs for me.

Saturday, 20 October 2018


This idea of taking photographs in the wood in black and white has given me a bit of direction of late. Even if my  approach is a bit arty-farty. I've been deliberately trying to avoid photographing 'views'. Scenes which might look nice in autumnal colour. Instead I've been deliberately looking for more abstract images. Plays of light where the light or shade is the focus of the picture. Also pictures which aren't in focus at all but just shapes of dark and light and tones in between. Or playing around with deliberate over or under exposure - and flash. I'm really not sure where it's all going. Which is probably why it's interesting me.

I've also gone through my archive of older photos from the wood, converting some into black and white.

I'm beginning to get a feel for what I'm looking for. With a bit more perseverance and a little luck I might manage to get ten or twenty pictures which make some visual sense when pulled together. Definitely not there yet,so I'll keep ploughing along when I get a spare half hour.

Despite concentrating on black and white in the wood I switch the camera back to colour when I leave it. Somehow my way of looking switches too and I start seeing colour pictures again. Low autumnal sun provides a warm, contrasty, light which can make things look rather Egglestonian to my eyes. Or maybe just more like Kodachrome.

In the world of sheep it's tupping time. The ewes are gathered together in small flocks accompanied by their would-be suitors. Chances to make any pictures have been slim, and I must admit the wood project has distracted me - probably because it can be engaged in more easily. When I have managed to get close enough to photograph sheep without trespassing I've been in black and white mode there for some reason. and in 4x5 ratio mode too, making sheepscapes.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

More mono

Despite pretty well exhausting the possibilities at the poultry auctions I was back again on Saturday. The aim being to once more evaluate approaches to gear. What the day proved was what I'd already worked out! The Fuji is okay, but clunky to use and that a 'big' camera doesn't necessarily make you any more obvious than a tiny one. At least not when you stick a small lens on it.

Possibly the most difficult sort of picture to pull off well is the candid group shot. It's bad enough trying to capture the look or gesture of one person, but to get a number of expressions which work together, in an arrangement of figures which works, when you can't control any of them, is like herding the proverbial cats!

I also had my felling that for most 'documentary' photography the 28mm and 50mm combination covers most of my requirements, with the 100mm in reserve. Why not use a 24-70mm zoom? Because it is true that using single focal length lenses makes you think about framing more critically. You have to move. Sometimes, though, all you need is a snapshot - when any lens will do!

As I've mentioned a time or two before, the light in the sale ring is bloody awful for colour photography with the mixture of lighting. It's also a bit gloomy. Using the Fuji in there showed yet again why I can't love it. At higher ISOs the way it renders skin is 'unusual' to my eyes. Less natural than the big cameras.

Outdoors, in good light, photographing anything other than people, the Fuji is fine. Where I am coming to appreciate it is when using it to make black and white pictures. In fact it's the reason I'm dabbling in that style at the moment. Black and white might be the way to approach photographing in the sale ring.

It's certainly proving its worth when I wander round the wood in late afternoon when the sun is bright and low. My previous attempts in colour always seemed too cluttered, but a monochromatic approach is simplifying things. There might be a project starting.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Monochromatic interlude

I've been going against my aversion to black and white photography this last week or so. I'm not too sure how it came about, but I think it has something to do with the graphic subject matter, and the way Fuji files convert from colour. My excuse being that the photos haven't been of a story-telling nature. They're not primarily documentary, more poetic. Which sounds terribly pretentious.

Towards the end of last week I took one of my usual routes for an afternoon walk, which lead me past a field of maize. With it being almost evening the sun was low and made for contrasty patterns in the crop.

In the wood the same lighting applied and I actually switched the camera to black and white mode. This is one of the few benefits of an electronic viewfinder for me.

I worked quickly without over-thinking my framing and exposing or the highlights because I knew I wanted contrasty pictures with black blacks. Of all my attempts to make pictures in the wood these, while far from great, are among my more successful results.

With one day of the weekend taken up trying to sell things to people and the second recovering from six hours of motorway driving come Monday it was a surprise to find the maize had been harvested. I had hoped to make some more pictures of the standing crop, but I was unfazed. There were still pictures there in the aftermath.

I didn't spend much time on my first visit, and even reverted to processing in colour. Which worked when there was bright colour in the pictures, but less so when they were already monochromatic.

The second visit saw me concentrating on graphic pictures in black and white, even though I had the camera set to colour. It was mostly a case of making Jackson Pollock style compositions over the entire frame. I even made a four frame grid.

 Details weren't disregarded, but again I tried to make something which had a rhythm to the image.

The idea of contrasty, abstracty, pictures had got in my head as I made my way home across the football pitches. The white goal posts and nets have always drawn my eye for some reason.

These are the sort of rubbish photographs I take when I don't have anything more interesting to point a camera at. The kind of pictures I've been making since I first picked up a camera in anger when I think about it. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day analysing why I take these pictures!